The Children and Families Bill is awaiting Royal Assent after a delay was granted to Baroness Howe of Idlicote to debate her amendment on online safety for children.
On 28 January, the House of Lords heard her calls for online adult content to be automatically filtered as a matter of law. In her amendment, she stated that these filters should only be disabled if the person can prove they are 18 or over.
It has taken a great deal of effort to persuade the government to adopt her proposal, but she has now succeeded in having it included as an amendment to the Children and Families Bill.
During the debate, Lord Cormack asked the government what steps it was taking to ensure that minors are not exposed to the dangers of online media. Lord Gardiner of Kimble said, ‘The government takes this issue very seriously indeed and continues to urge all parts of the industry to do more.
‘The four main internet service providers will very soon have implemented family-friendly filters at network level for all new customers, with existing customers to follow’.
He said ministers have also called for all social media companies to attend a meeting, to review what processes are in place to ensure that minors are kept safe.
Baroness Howe asked: ‘Education is an important part of the solution, along with default filtering. Will the Minister set out the government’s new plans to improve online safety education in schools and say when these plans will commence?’
Lord Gardiner avowed this was imminent for 2014. In September this year, e-safety will be taught as part of computing, at all four key stages that apply to pupils, from the ages of five to 16.
In a statement, charity CARE, which has been working with Baroness Howe, said, ‘Exposure to such content is having a seriously damaging effect on children’s mental and physical health’.